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The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, said that he has been told that there are many variations on a theme. That is true. These principles are very generalised and very basic; and on that basic theme the Scottish parliament could produce any variation it wanted. All could be possible within the framework we have laid down. Working procedures for the parliament may well be different from those of this and another place. Personally, I rather believe that they will be. They may or may not be. That is for the Scottish parliament to decide.
We should not assume that Bills will be developed and introduced exactly as they are at Westminster. Ultimately, it will be for the parliament to decide on its own procedures, including arrangements for the scrutiny of legislation. These will be governed by its standing orders.
We have recognised that it would be unrealistic to expect the parliament to be in a position to put in place standing orders on day one of its operation. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland established the all-party consultative steering group which has been mentioned. This group is chaired by my honourable friend Mr. Henry McLeish. This group will prepare a draft report recommending what the standing orders should cover. It is expected to report by the end of the year. Initial standing orders will be included in a transitional order to be made by the Secretary of State in good time to be in place from the outset. I remember giving an identical answer earlier in the Committee stage to the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, who is not in his place at the moment. It will then be for the parliament to develop and adapt the standing orders in due course, as it sees fit.
The consultative steering group has already begun to consider how the legislative process might be handled by the Scottish parliament. It is very likely to recommend a vigorous pre-legislative process so that proposals for legislation which come before the parliament have been subject to rigorous scrutiny and participation and that the effects of the proposed legislation have been well considered. The group is looking at the form in which legislation might be required to be presented and at the details of the various stages of scrutiny which the Bill should undergo in the parliament. The results of the group's consideration will inform the parliament's eventual decisions on the legislative process. I am sure that the parliament will want to establish a system of legislating which will deliver well thought out, quality legislation.
I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the parliament from including in its standing orders appropriate opportunity for detailed consideration of a Bill. For example, it
The amendment would impose a very detailed and time-consuming process on the parliament which I think we should hesitate to impose. There are certainly interesting elements in the proposal and I agree that consultation with outside bodies will be a necessary feature of the parliament's work. However, I repeat yet again that we should leave it to the parliament to decide precisely how to do that. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: The noble Baroness has told us that the consultative steering committee will probably report at about the end of the year. What we do not know is whether its recommendations will have to be accepted by the Scottish parliament, quite apart from the fact that we do not know what its recommendations are going to be.
In scrutinising the Bill we have a duty to do all we can to make sure that legislation passed by the parliament which this Bill brings into being will receive thorough and adequate scrutiny. That is our duty to the people of Scotland.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: As the noble Lady said, the group will prepare a draft report recommending what the standing orders should cover. It is expected to report by the end of the year. The initial standing orders will be included in a transitional order to be made by the Secretary of State in good time to be in place from the outset. But it will then be for the parliament to develop and adapt those in due course as it sees fit. It will be for the Scottish parliament then to deal with the standing orders.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: I am baffled as to why we are discussing this matter. Perhaps I may refer back to what Mr. Henry McLeish said in another place and continue the quotation which my noble friend read. He said:
Therefore, although the noble twins Mackay had a very good run at doing this work for the committee, they have their representatives on it. I believe that they should put their thoughts to that committee.
By no stretch of the imagination could one consider Clause 34 to improve radically on the Westminster model. One might as well pass a provision in the Bill that the parliament shall be in favour of motherhood and apple pie; it has no real effect. I do not see why the
The Earl of Balfour: I was going purely and simply on what I read in the Bill. When I read Clause 34, I had the impression that the clause will give the parliament only one chance to amend a Bill. I am glad to have that impression corrected, but that is how I read the Bill.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We have had an interesting debate on the amendment. I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken and those who supported my idea. The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, liked it but would not accept it. Perhaps I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. My stages one and two could easily be achieved on the basis of a draft Bill. I think that that would be a good idea. But as my noble friends Lord Balfour and Lady Carnegy said, it is important that we have proper scrutiny of legislation.
The Minister spent half her time watering down Clause 34 and the other half trying to tell me that it did not mean what I think it means. I noted she said that Clause 34 does not go through three stages; it makes points. With all due respect, it does not make points. Clause 34(1)(c) states:
We have three stages in place of the six stages in this Parliament. There is no getting away from that simple fact. It cannot be said that what is provided here is a minimum, generalised approach. It is in the legislation. If the Scottish parliament did not have standing orders which included those three things and someone were aggrieved, it could possibly find itself in court.
But the most ridiculous factor is this. It is not for us to prescribe working practices. While I shall withdraw my amendment, will the Government withdraw their prescription of what working practices should be? They are hoist with their own petard. If I am at fault because I am prescribing working practices, I should have thought that the Government were at fault. Clause 34 need only provide that, "Standing orders shall include provisions for the procedures to be followed for the passage of a Bill". We can then allow the consultative steering group to put forward its proposals and, after the parliament starts, it can amend them as it sees fit.
I have found the debate unsatisfactory. I am glad that I started it off because I hope that the Government, the people on the steering committee, and those who will be in the new parliament are at least listening to the point we are making: that in a unicameral parliament it would be a mistake--I think a serious mistake--to reflect, as does Clause 34(1), the procedures of the House of Commons, which has this House to back up and revise its legislation, and to give outside bodies a second bite at the cherry of campaigning and lobbying against a piece of legislation.
Lord Renton: Before my noble friend sits down, one should get on the record that what is proposed in subsection (1) of the Bill does not fully represent even the procedures of the House of Commons. In the House of Commons there is a procedure very similar to that in subsection (1)(b) of my noble friend's amendment.
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